Games at school 2010 – week 1

26 Feb

I started my “boardgames” elective at school today. I’m working with a group of 12 students in years 5 & 6 (10-12 yr olds) who have chosen this from a range of electives. Actually, 23 students chose to do it, but we’ve restricted the numbers as I just can’t take that many people. The other children will start a few weeks into Term 2, when this group has finished.

The program is a little different this year than it was last year. In the past, I have run “game days” at school, where I take in a bunch of games and try to teach them to OMG the whole class in one go. It’s fun, but stressful. Last year, I had a group of students for about half the year (apparently they continued their gaming after I went overseas – great to hear). I tried to run different games for the whole group, and found that some things worked really well and others (werewolf, dexterity games) absolutely did not.

This year, the program has to do two things.

Firstly, it needs to provide a fun but slightly sneakily educational program for the Year 5-6 kids

and Secondly, it needs to start to provide a framework for the OMG INTEGRATION OF GAMES INTO SCHOOL. Specifically, for the 30 or so games that the school is buying as the basis of a school games library. My aim here is to teach these kids to play enough of the games that will be in that library that they can choose them and play them on their own, without me having to be there. And hopefully to teach them to other kids as well.

I started the day with a discussion of games and the important questions – “What is your name, and what is your favourite game?”

Several of the kids wouldn’t name a game as their favourite. Of the 11 there today, though, I had a “Can’t Stop”, 2 “Carcassonne”, a “Beep Beep” and a “That game where you are building trains all over a map” (Ticket to Ride). Whee!

That is Me.

Well, me and Fraser. But we’ve been a part of that school community for 7 years, we’ve run Family Game Nights for 4 years, we’ve taken games into that school every year and now we’ve got other families excited about them.

When the boy talked about liking Ticket to Ride, one of the other children asked, “Which version?”

Allow me a moment of hard-earned pride. It felt pretty good.

Of course, there was also the boy who said, “I don’t really like games.” “Why did you choose to be part of this group?” I asked. “Because there wasn’t anything else that sounded interesting”

Meanwhile, one of Bigster’s classroom teachers is trying to track down a copy of Stockmarket on eBay because it is so relevant.

Anyway … today’s session. After the introductions, we started with a couple of smaller card games. My theme today was “Games where the person with the FEWEST points is the winner” – so we split into 2 groups (1 group of 4 girls, with the Bigster teaching) and another of the 7 boys, with me). The girls played No Thanks (Geschenkt) and, after they finished, Piece o’Cake (Aber bitte mit Sahne) – not corresponding to the theme, but a good filler. The boys played 2 rounds of 6 takes (6 nimmt), which is on the school’s shopping list. This was a good way for me to see who got right into it, who ran the game, who needed a bit more help.

My plan had been to give them a quick round of We will rock you at the end of the session, but the group in the other half of the (double) classroom were doing film criticism and I decided it might be a bit intrusive. It can wait.

At the end of the session, I asked the group which number is most likely to be rolled on a 6-sided dice. “None!” said one boy, “They are all the same.”

Another boy frowned. “Um, maybe a 6, because it is a bit lighter if they have scooped out 6 dots?”

I love this group already for their Mad Thinking Skillz.

I reassured Boy 2 that it was not a trick question. Then I asked them about what happens if you roll 2 6-sided dice (you can see where I am headed). They came up with “7” … and I came up with a pile of red, green and white dice ($2 for 12 from the local discount store). I got each child to take 2 dice *in different colours* (I think that might make the thinking process easier) and asked them, during the week, to think about what different numbers can be rolled on 2d6 and in what different ways. (I told the classroom teachers that I’d set this, and they seemed pretty happy – something they can think about during the week).

The Boy Who Does Not Like Games conceded that 6 nimmt was “pretty good”.

Next week, the group will split in two for the next 2 weeks. Each week, half the class will play fillers – the games I had with me today and probably a couple of others – Incan Gold, if I can find my copy (it’s still buried in storage somewhere), Apples to Apples, Can’t Stop (oooo relevance to the homework). The other half will play the “feature game” of the next 2 weeks – The Settlers of Catan. With 6 children, I’ll pair them up so that each “player” is actually 2 children. I found last year that that doesn’t slow things down dramatically, and a 3-player game is typically much faster than one with 4 or 6.

When I mentioned Settlers, one of the boys said, “Oh, I’ve played a Germany version of that with my cousin” – another said “COOL! I wanted to learn that!”

After Settlers, I plan to take Pandemic in again – it’s on the list I gave to school, and it worked really well last year. After that, who knows – I think Through the Desert, which school is buying when it is released, but Claudia is pushing for that farming game I have a weakness for.

If there’s time, I want to do a week on game design, but it will depend on how we go – this is a short term, so we will run into the next one, but I am not sure how many weeks we will have.

And THEN … after the session today, I headed for Otto’s classroom, where the teacher tackled me, pinned me down and said GAMES!

OK maybe only one of those things is precisely true.

Next Friday, before my game group, I am meeting with Otto’s teacher to show her some great games for year 1-2 (ages 5-8 approx).

Again, I hope to use this as an intro point for the list of games that I’ve recommended the school buy. The more teachers (and students) that know the games, the more they will be played.


Posted by on February 26, 2010 in games, school


3 responses to “Games at school 2010 – week 1

  1. yewenyi

    February 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Sounds good. Maybe they could write their own game at the end of the elective… 😉

    • Melissa

      February 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

      The problem with designing their own game is that it always ends up being roll-and-move — it’s hard to design something that isn’t within any sort of time constraint. I had some success last year with a session where we brainstormed game ideas. Or I have another idea where I give them bits and get them to design something with those specific bits – might be a bit less open-ended, and therefore go faster.

  2. Gerald

    February 27, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Your success with the school has been amazing. Your hard work and perseverance is paying off well. Keep up the great work, and keep writing about it. I’ve enjoyed following your progress over the years, and look forward to hearing more.

    Gee, where were people like you and games like these when I was a kid?!


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